This week, Southern California is getting ready for what experts say could be the strongest Santa Ana winds of the year. This raises concerns about fire risks and cold temperatures.
Meteorologist David Sweet from the National Weather Service in Oxnard said Monday, “Today is the calm before the gusty winds.”
“This will be the biggest event of the year,” Sweet said.
The National Weather Service says that moderate Santa Ana winds will start to blow Tuesday morning and last all day, with gusts between 35 and 45 mph. Even on Wednesday, there will still be a lot of wind. When the high winds were combined with the low humidity, the National Weather Service put out a red flag warning for fire danger for most of Wednesday’s day for much of Ventura County and the western parts of Los Angeles County, including Malibu.
A red flag warning is given when high winds and low humidity could cause a fire to act in an extreme way.
“Damaging northeast winds” of 75 mph are expected Wednesday morning, Sweet said. Temperatures are expected to be in the low 70s, and relative humidity will be down between 10% and 20%, Sweet said.
At first, weather experts put out a fire weather watch because conditions were good for fires to grow quickly. By Monday afternoon, though, they warned that low humidity made it more likely that brush fires would spread quickly. Wednesday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., a red flag warning was issued for western L.A. County and most of Ventura County.
Meteorologists say that a watch means that critical fire weather conditions are possible but not imminent or happening.
In an alert, the National Weather Service said, “If a fire starts, it could spread quickly and become a threat to people and property.”
Meteorologists have warned of downed power lines and trees, and they say to secure any outdoor furniture, including trampolines.
This week’s events have also made people worried about the cold weather that is coming to some parts of L.A. County.
“When there is very dry air in the air, the temperature tends to drop like a rock overnight,” said Sweet, adding that the week did not look “terribly cold.” But the wind could die down in places like Ojai in Ventura County and the Antelope Valley, where temperatures could fall to the mid-30s any night this week, according to Sweet.
Muntu Davis, the public health officer for Los Angeles County, put out a cold weather alert on Sunday for a number of areas, including the Santa Clarita Valley, where it will last until Tuesday, the Mt. Wilson area, where it will last until Wednesday, and Lancaster, where it will last until Friday.
Davis said that older people, children, and people with disabilities or medical needs are especially at risk. He reminded the public not to heat their homes with stoves, ovens, or barbecues because of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Davis said that there is a program for people who need a warm place to stay at the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.
There could be gusts of up to 70 mph below the Cajon Pass, in the Inland Empire, which includes Ontario and Corona, and in the Santa Ana mountains and foothills, which include Tustin and Orange. Dan Gregoria, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in San Diego, said that winds will reach about 50 miles per hour in most cities.
On Wednesday evening, the winds should die down. Later this week, Gregoria says, there will be less wind.